365 Days of Blogging: Personal Writing Challenge ACCEPTED

I woke up late on New Year’s Day and thought about this blog and about being a writer and all of the things that that means. I want writing to be a daily habit (it nearly is). Why not challenge myself to write a blog post a day for the next 365 days? Make 2015 my Year of Blogging Dangerously? accepted2

I debated keeping it to myself, but if I post it, maybe that will keep me honest. :D

So there you go, Internet. I am unleashing my inner authorly Kraken.

Brace yourselves! IMG_4589 IMG_4766 IMG_4904

Maybe I should buy stocks in Buckleys. Or Kleenex.

Sick days suck.

I’m talking about the sick days where you have no alternative but to lie down and sleep, or attempt to sleep as much as the misery of your body will allow.

And we need those days, of course. Can’t be a superhero all the time! But it still sucks royally, because you miss out on family time, can’t help the people you want to help, and you have to catch up when you go back to work.

Took my second sick day in a row today. Still not entirely better, but at least now I can think somewhat coherently. Last night I slept poorly in part due to the congestion in my head and chest, and in part due to worrying about what lessons I would send to school for my supply teacher. Once that was done, though, and the kids off on their morning (thanks to my wonderful hubby, who was able to come home on a short break to help get them moving), I was able to relax a bit more and actually rest (again, as much as possible while hacking, coughing, sneezing, etc.). I felt like I’d fallen into a cold medicine commercial.

And now it’s nighttime once more. Hubby has worked another miracle in getting the kids to bed EARLY, but that doesn’t mean we get to cuddle while watching a show, because he has to work at 5 am. Oh, well. Hopefully tomorrow will not be a repeat of today.

On being tall — the good, the bad, the short hems . . .

One thing that struck me last night, watching Julie & Julia, was the way the filmmakers managed to communicate or recreate Julia Child’s height. I’m only a half-inch shorter than she was, so seeing representations of women my height or taller is a rather two-sided coin: I’m both fascinated and reminded of how awkward it is to be a bigger person in a world that prefers its women to be smaller than men.

And even that is a mixed message. Women wear high heels to appear to have more height. Tall women are told they could be models, are idealized as being graceful, statuesque, or willowy. I don’t know if it’s just me, but watching a naturally tall woman, though, posing next to her average-sized friends or dancing with a physically smaller partner borders on the comedic, or the sad. It’s my own prejudice against individuals like myself. I have days when I like and enjoy my tallness, and others when it just feels like there is too much of me to haul around the Earth.

That’s where my husband comes in. Like Chummy Noakes (Miranda Hart) tells her (then-future) husband in Call the Midwife (2012-2015), he makes me feel small. Normal. As in, not a giant or a tower or a beanstalk or a stepladder. Even when I have to slouch to rest my head on his shoulder, I don’t often notice the height difference between us. It’s not much — he’s 5’9″ to my 6’1.5″ — but when you are raised in a society that focuses on the feminine as small and soft (a double-standard considering the other focus on tall as an ideal of beauty), it’s enough of a difference to be felt. I wore flats when we got married. He grins when he’s got his thick-soled winter boots on and I’m in sock feet, because that raises him to eye-level with me.

So I’m watching the wedding scene in Julie & Julia, where Julia Child’s sister Dorothy (played by Jane Linch) marries a man who is much shorter than she, and like many individuals who are a minority something, wishing that it wasn’t so abnormal to see myself represented in the media. It would just be . . . comforting. I mean, I’m the same height as Miranda Hart. A bit taller than Geena Davis and Jane Lynch. But they’re not often portrayed in a way that reveals their height. And as I’ve gotten older, my body type has passed from the late 20th-century / early 21st century ideal to a more Rubenesque shape. And frankly, having observed other tall women both in my workplace and in the media, it’s the latter form which is more common, just as it is with average-sized women. But I think that the curviness of the tall woman is more noticeable because it is right there, proportionally larger in many ways. We stand out in a crowd for horizontal as well as vertical reasons.

Maybe it’s just my own sensitivity, especially to images that are meant to highlight physical differences. After all, when I’m talking to someone or walking down a hallway or street, I don’t often think about how I’m head and shoulders above the crowd most of the time. But it happens when I need to use a public restroom — those doors, meant for privacy, are typically little match for my stature, so I’ve learned well how to slouch into and out of them — and when I catch a glimpse of my reflection. I find it difficult to keep my shoulders back and my spine straight, because it’s easier for me to connect with others when I’m leaning down or to the side. I’ve been mistaken for a man now and again, when wearing unisex clothing.

What brings all of this up, though — because I think I’ve written a blog post about being tall before — is Julie & Julia, as well as Call the Midwife, showing tall women in a rather natural state rather than idealized as models. As much as it makes me think how silly we must look to others, comically enlarged and therefore unfeminine (is that why tall women who are models tend to be stick-thin? To make them look proportionally smaller, and therefore more feminine? Less threatening to the masculine ideal, because they are not as solid in appearance?), it’s rather comforting to see women like me in fiction, women who are based on real individuals who led happy and productive and successful lives in spite of — or because of — their height.

And I’ve been thinking about this again because I found two new tall-women clothing stores online, and I’m kind of dismayed at the models they’ve chosen to showcase their wares. They’re just too thin. How can I judge whether the shirts and slacks will look the way I want them to, when I want to dress professionally, if they’re being modelled by women who are so thin? I know there are some tall women out there who are, quite naturally, that body type, for I used to be one of them in my teens and some of my 20s. But for my current age and figure, I’m more likely to shop online or physically with those who are showing the bodies like mine. Method Boutique, for example, is very good for that. Long Tall Sally isn’t bad, either.

I’m not the tallest of the tall women. I think that two of my female colleagues are taller than me by a fraction, and from the measurements I’ve seen online as well as family experience (shout-out to my cousin Brittany, if you’re reading this), there are women out there who are well bigger than I am. And let’s add in the transgendered women, whose height was granted by testosterone before their transitions. And the transsexuals, who may be more comfortable in women’s clothing but struggle just as much as those of us born with boobs and other lady parts in finding good looks that fit properly and don’t make us feel like hippos wriggling into tights. I wish that our physical difference didn’t inspire shoe makers and clothing manufacturers to increase the cost of their goods so much, or that we weren’t prohibited from certain designs because the companies couldn’t be bothered to enlarge the shoe or whatever by that much more. It’s lucky that Julia Child and her sister came from a wealthy family, because they would not have been able to find much in the way of ready-made clothing.  I know from personal experience that it’s still the case today.

So why do I frequently misjudge my own size? I pick up a shirt at Giant Tiger, thinking that it will fit me because it’s a Large or an X-L, forgetting that I’m even bigger than that now and no amount of dieting or lifestyle change is really going to alter what time, hormones, and children have done for my body. I say for, not to, because in spite of my crankiness, I do like my bod. My husband thinks I’m sexy, and with the right clothes, I feel pretty damned good. It’s the finding of the clothes that’s the problem!

So Julie & Julia — Child and her sister can afford to have stylish clothing custom-made, proportioned and tailored to look the way they want. Call the Midwife — Chummy can make her own clothing, and indeed is forced to whip up her own smart uniform when the ones provided by the clinic prove to be too small. My mum is wonderful, making me slacks and coats and tops, but those pieces often end up needing altering (sorry, Mom) because the patterns she’s using aren’t suited to tall bodies and she’s trying her best to make the round peg suit the rectangular hole. Maybe this is really the bone of my contention. No wonder I prefer fiction over real life — in fiction, solutions are so much easier to come by.

Oh, so much more I could say, but I’ve been in bed for most of the day with this damned chest cold. (Beds — another grumpiness for those of us 6′ plus.) Not sure if this has been a rant or an essay. I’ll finish off by saying this: Don’t stereotype the tall people. And I love and adore my husband for loving my height and my curves. I need to give myself more time for sewing my own clothing (and learning how to do it right).

And watch those shows I mentioned — Call the Midwife, and Julie & Julia. If not for the great depictions of big women, for the excellent stories and characters as well. Highly worth it.

Progress Report: In which I ramble about feeling rough, this damnable winter, blogging, work, romance (very stream of consciousness)

Feeling a bit rough tonight. A cough — a rattly, unpleasant thing that vibrates in the centre of my chest when I inhale and exhale — bringing up a bit of phlegm and a feeling of relief for a few minutes. It’s not a steady cough, but it’s there. Hubby has made me a cup of tea with lots of honey. We’re watching Julie and Julia together.

No progress yet on the Snowmobiling Story. The marking continues on the Flash Fictions, seven more to go. I believe I have turned the halfway point on those.

March 2nd does not feel in any way like March 2nd. We are in the middle of an endless swath of white drifts and blowing crystals. Planet Hoth. I wish we could afford to go somewhere for the spring break, although it’s nice that we’ll be able to ski every day if we want to.

Hubby’s been talking to a friend of his who is a professional blogger. The friend said it’s better to own one’s domain (heh heh, Seinfeld) than to borrow the space from the entity, as I’m doing, because then you can make money for yourself through advertising revenues, rather than (just) making money for the company that hosts. It’s a thought. I showed him my home page, that I’ve been blogging for five years on this platform without issue (although not consistently, which is why I’ve challenged myself to a post every day this year), so he’s like, “Well, just keep doing it then.” But I’ve considered purchasing this blog for a while now, off and on. What do you think? Is it a worthy investment?

If I bought this blog, I could upload video directly. Would that be worthwhile? The vlog I did the other day didn’t get a huge response, but it was still a nice change from type type typing. If I went the Premium route, I wouldn’t have to go the long way around with loading my video on YouTube first.

Anyway . . . other than feeling rough off and on today, it was a good day at school. Had two classes successfully complete tests when I’d anticipated having to drag some students through them. The tests were practical: sight passage-style practical exercise in annotation and making connections. The grade 11s in first period had a selection of three different articles about effective workplace communication, and the grade 9s in period two had a choice of six different short stories in various genres and styles. Tomorrow, some of my grade 11s will be missing class for a literacy test preparatory meeting, so I have to figure out what to do with the rest of them. Last time they had a lit test prep session, I had the rest of my class watching Sherlock and pointing out some of the concepts we’ve been discussing. I suppose I could have them watch the remainder of the episode, and then do some independent reading with their novel studies. The grade 9s, though . . . well, we haven’t looked at their class novel for a few days, Cue for Treason, so we need to update their notes on the plot points and dive back into the book.

You know, it’s occurred to me also that I haven’t done any romance writing for a while. So I have to wonder: does a writer need to have romance going on to be able to write about it? And then I contemplated whether I’ve been feeling the vibe for writing romance or not. My hubby does lots of little things that are romantic in nature, but of course, there are also the big demonstrative acts that we look to in books and films to give us those little fluttery moments in our bellies. Could I write a romance about a two-decade relationship that would feel as freshly inspiring as a tale about strangers or old friends getting to know one another?

Thank you, by the way, to all of you who leave comments and like my posts. I do appreciate your thoughts and feedback, and it’s gratifying to know that someone out there is enjoying my ramblings in some fashion. :)

Sunday night cramming and torn fingernails

Here I am, back at my usual Sunday night cramming. My nails and cuticles painfully ripped and pulled down to the quick — that’s one sure sign of my anxiety level. On Friday night, I was so sure I’d be productive this weekend: finish marking the Writer’s Craft stories, the grade 11 blogs, develop the summative tasks for grades 11 and 9 English classes . . .


I slept in Saturday morning until my parents phoned around 11, and even then, I lingered and lolled around until it was time to get ready for my daughter’s ski lesson. Skied for an hour and had a great time (see Saturday’s blog), came home and . . . oh, gosh, I can’t even remember how I spent Saturday night. Maybe I should check my blog, or my Facebook posts. Was definitely tired, though. Oh, now I remember — I got a coffee around 6:30 to make sure I’d stay awake long enough to do my school work, but I ended up knitting and playing strategy games until bedtime, and then I started watching Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and my son wanted to watch with me and we ended up talking about WWI and the movie until close to 1 am. So no marking got done Saturday night, or that afternoon, or that morning.

This morning I woke up with a killer headache. I slept on and off until 10, then got up and tried different things to get rid of the headache. If it was from having too much caffeine lately, I decided to do the stupid thing and have more coffee. That didn’t work, though. Didn’t make it worse, but pain didn’t go away. I tried going back to bed for a little while before taking the kids back to the ski hill (Bridget’s ski test day) in the afternoon. That didn’t work either. I took an Advil right before we left, and that seemed to help for a while. Head’s been hurting since supper, though. And of course, I was so tired by the second day of exercise that I needed a nap. So no marking done this afternoon or earlier tonight.

Maybe the havoc I wreak on my nails is some form of self-punishment, a modern and miniaturized hair shirt or self-flagellation, because for every key I hit, my fingers hurt. Not every nail has been picked at or ripped, but enough to sting when I wash my hands. There’s one bit of nail sticking out in the tip of my right middle finger, like a sliver, and if I can find tweezers to pull it out (just clipping it won’t do at this point), it will bleed. I’m not a nail biter, I’m a picker. I do it when I’m nervous, under stress, bored (strange sort of satisfaction in pulling away a neat width of nail, particularly from a toe), while watching movies or waiting. This is why I think knitting is good for me — it’s something to do with my fingers that doesn’t involve causing physical irritation. Unfortunately, knitting doesn’t help me get the marking done, and it’s not particularly well-received during meetings at work.

Anyway . . . The good news is that I think I’m ready to go with my students’ tests, which only need to be photocopied at this point. I have a variety of short stories for my grade 9s to read, already at school (I realized this about a half hour ago and had to convince myself not to go looking for any other new ones). Next is reviewing my students’ blogs so I can put their most recent marks on their progress reports tomorrow. I really, really wanted to get those flash fictions completed this weekend, though. It’s as frustrating to me as it is to my students. Why can’t I just buckle down and focus?

My Beardie is making me eat healthier!

I realized this the other day: because Elizabeth Reptile eats fresh endive, fruits, and berries, in addition to crickets, I’ve been picking up small packets of mixed whole fruit pieces and berries every few days. She doesn’t eat them all, of course — I learned that the hard way, when I thought a tray of raspberries would last for her, and the majority ended up going bad. So we get to enjoy! And it’s much better to keep the fresh stuff on hand than cookies or doughnuts.

I went through an overdose of chocolate right before and the week after Valentine’s Day. Hubby’s been making me big baggies of vegetable sticks (carrots, peppers, celery, cucumbers) to take to work, when he has the time and we’ve been shopping to get them. I should start planning out my box gardens to produce my own, although I won’t be able to do anything for months yet. We might be fortunate enough to see melting in March, but even if the snow goes by April, nothing can go in the ground until May. And even then, there’s risk of frost until well into June.

So goes life in Northeastern Ontario.

It was a lovely day for skiing today, and this is why my thoughts are turning to spring. I may have gotten mild frostbite on my cheeks a few weeks ago, possibly when I was downhill skiing and my face was uncovered. (Skiing plus scarf over face near glasses = Tori can’t see worth a damn going down the hill.) There’s this feeling of dampness, icy and unpleasant, when my face gets cold outside, as if snow is melting there that I can’t wipe away. Or a feeling of mild tingling. I’m fortunate that it’s not worse than an annoyance: I haven’t experienced any peeling or visible irritation, but it’s a reminder to me to be careful and find a better way to protect my skin. I’m going to have to look into vented goggles for next year, too. But the good news is that we’re coming out of February and into March. It’s rather like moving “from the freezer and into the fridge” (Icequake). I’m optimistic that we might have seen the last of the -30 C temperatures for the year. Today it was a balmy -7 C on the hill, just gorgeous. Tomorrow should be more of the same.

I almost didn’t go skiing today, though. Woke up feeling grumpy and wiped out and I wanted to ignore the sunshine and blue sky. But having to pick up the fresh food for Elizabeth, and take Bridget to her ski lesson, got me moving. And at first, I figured I wasn’t up for skiing, myself — I’d just take a book to read, bring my knitting, do some marking. But by the time I got home with the goodies and was loading up the vehicle, I figured I should put my own equipment in the car in case I changed my mind. And by the time we arrived at the hill, after a nice warm drive in the sunlight — after I’d gotten more sun on my face and the fresh air — I was getting my own boots and skis on as soon as Bridget was off on her lesson.

Oh, but funny thing: while I was enjoying my afternoon (that hour of skiing went way too quickly this time, I could have happily stayed out all day), I wanted to take some pictures of the animal tracks I’d noticed in the otherwise unmarked snow next to the T-bar lift trail. So I pulled out my phone and pretty immediately dropped it. No stopping to pick it up — all I could do was watch helplessly, craning my neck behind me, as the T-bar pulled me further up the hill. The young snowboarders behind me saw the the phone (thank heavens I’d dropped it case-up, so its TARDIS design was highly visible) and tried to get it, but they missed. I decided to wait at the top of the lift to see if anyone else would see it and grab it, and fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. But I decided not to try getting pics again. It’s too bad, because those tracks are really neat. I think I was seeing stories about mice foraging and chipmunks evading capture from foxes. I downloaded an app to help me identify the tracks. Maybe next time, I’ll hold my phone in my bare hand and do video instead — no messing with gloves, no clicking, just keep it smooth.

An absent computer cord, an evening of skating, and a helping of parental guilt.

Left my computer cord at work, so this post is being composed on my iPhone.

I’d rather be typing on a keyboard. Oh, well. 

Had a small attack of the guilts tonight while watching our daughter in her skating show. I was sitting next to our teenager, who expressed a bit of jealousy and a wish that he had gotten involved in skating lessons this winter when I had first offered. So now he wants to try a month in the spring session, which I’m happy to provide. 

The guilt comes from not insisting that he continue the skating after his one year of lessons, when he was 7 or 8, or that I didn’t decide for him that he should be in lessons this winter. I think he would have enjoyed it. At the same time, Jack has karate twice a week and archery on Fridays, so his concern that he might end up doing too much — especially when we added skiing to the mix — was likely valid. On the other hand, he’s a very creative and highly expressive individual. He’s also waffled over going back into dance. 

Guilt, guilt, guilt . . . I don’t want him to be overwhelmed either, yet I want him to get involved with physical activities that he’ll enjoy and will add to his skill set. Bridget, too. But there were a few years when they were both small where I was barely keeping it together, let alone having enough energy to do activities. So I didn’t insist that he keep going in skating, or guitar lessons, and maybe I should have. 

I told him tonight, though, that it’s not too late to start. So hopefully he’ll give it another shot next month, and he says if he likes it, he’ll do skating next year. 

Or dance. 

I’m so tired . . . 

Meanwhile Bridget did very well. She’s made progress in leaps and bounds (mostly figuratively), and even helped the younger ones. So proud of her! 

I’ll try to post some video tomorrow, once I retrieve my damned computer cord.

And today, a Vlog: in which I explain 3 different ways to Roll Up the Rim*

So I decided to experiment with the vlogging format, playing around with the editing features and software. I often recommend video logging to my students but I realized I really should be trying it out myself so I can give them suggestions, caveats, advice, and so on. Plus, it was kind of fun!

*It’s a Canadian thing. ;)

So, what did you think? I might use this idea for a lesson now and again, especially if I’m going to be out of the classroom. Next time I should try it with the camera pointed at the board, while I’m doing notes or diagrams . . .